The Leaving (Der Aufbruch) - movie poster

feature | with Thomas Sturm, Eleonore Weisgerber and Elisabeth Lanz | 89min | USA/AUT 2003
Watch the trailer | Press Clippings

An Austrian artist struggles to escape his home-town frustrations as well as the suffocating embrace of his older sister. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, he is faced with the realization that things were not the way they seemed back home in Austria…

After the disaster of “After a Long Day I Woke Up”, my previous 35mm short that was quite expensive but NOBODY had watched, I decided that for half of the money that short had cost I could just as well do a feature film. Back then, the Dogma films of Lars of van Trier,  Thomas Vinterberg and such were very much hyped, and it became “ok” to film on the very inferior and cheap shooting format DV. So I went for it.

Inspired by a book of the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard, “Beton” (“Concrete”), I transformed the theme of a writer not being able to leave his home into a story about an artist, Thomas, who keeps trying to escape his home town to go to America “and make it there”, but keeps being held back by the intriguing finesse of the manipulative sister and her plots.

The novel thing about this film was that I wanted to film the story from a first person perspective – meaning, the camera was a person who participated in the story. But that person should not be the protagonist – it should be another person, who had an interest in the artist and hence was present whenever important things happend (he needed to be present – he was “the camera”!). So I invented the character Robert (me, the camera), who was in love with the evil sister, Elisabeth. And I went to build a “helmet camera” from scratch.

The Leaving - press clipping helmet camera
Press Clipping from the “Rundschau”, August 2002 showing Robert and his “helmet camera”

The smallest DV camera with sufficient quality was still enormous, and I ran into quite some difficulties not only in mounting it on a ski-helmet (making excessive counter weights necessary), but also during filming, as the weight was quite a challenge to my neck; not even to speak of the fact that I needed to frame the image, monitor exposure/focus AND perform my part all at the same time…

I teamed up with my friend Thomas Sturm (who happens to be a wonderful visual artist “in real life”) to perform the part of Thomas. He brought his friend, the wonderful actress Elisabeth Lanz into the project, who was working very successfully in German TV at the time. Just as Thomas and I, Elisabeth too had grown up in the very rural area of Upper Austria where we were about to shoot the film. It turned out that Elisabeth and I had gone to elementary school together, so this shoot promised to be a reunion after twenty-something years for us. Finally, Elisabeth persuaded her friend Eleonore Weisgerber, a highly esteemed German actress, to join the project as Thomas’ love interest. We were ready to go.

Thomas Sturm, Elenore Weisgerber, Elisabeth Lanz and Robert Narholz (from left to right)
The main cast of “The Leaving” during production on location: Thomas Sturm, Elenore Weisgerber, Elisabeth Lanz and Robert Narholz (from left to right)

The shooting was both excessively strenuous and fun. We got the entire feature into camera in only ten days (not counting the two days of shooting in Los Angeles weeks later). The premiere of the film was at the local (yet quite established) art festival in the town where we shot most of the film, the Festwochen Gmunden. It was quite a scene – and we got great press. The film went on to some international festivals, and then to release on DVD. And I managed to meet the goal of my intention: This film only cost half of what my previous (short) film had cost – and made it all around the world, and on DVD. Not bad I thought – and started plotting the sequel, which would be a very different film: “Take Me Home (Die Spur im Schnee)”

This entry was posted in FILMS. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *